I Love Mystery Science Theater 3000, And You Can Too!

1998 was a formative year for me. I was 10 years old, but I remember it well. Specifically, because I made two major discoveries. The first was the fact that I had discovered what a bad movie was. I had rented a couple movies with my cousin on VHS. The first movie was an unmemorable movie… for the fact that I had forgotten it. I think it had Brendan Frasier in it, might have been “George of the Jungle,” but that doesn’t matter. The second movie was “The Avengers” staring Ralph Finnes, Uma Thurman, and Sean Connery. A movie so bad, that I didn’t understand it. After I watched it for the first time, I was literally in disbelief that a movie could be this bad, so I actually watched again. My mom saw me watching it and said, “Oh, you must like this movie!” and I was like “No… I don’t actually get this movie.” That’s when I realized that I had watched a bad movie. Badder than bad. It was awful, and I had never experienced anything like it before.

I use to think that every movie was a good movie, but things changed for me after that. Suddenly, Pauly Shore wasn’t as funny, I understood the reason Batman and Robin sucked when I saw it, and I started to understand my taste in movies. This is all to lead into the second discovery of 1998.

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The Furby of the 80’s. (Picture Source: Shout Factory.)

Christmas time in 1998, back when giant ass satellite dishes were our source of television, and to change channels, the dish had to move so many degrees, and it took for ever to switch from MTV to HBO. We also had a Canadian TV guide, so we could forgo the channel surfing. My sister, who came back from university, found something she wanted to watch called “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” She said she watched this movie because she had a class where she had to watch something with science in the name (or something). So we started watching, Experiment 907, “Hobgoblins”, and I was immediately floored. The show is about about a man and two robots, being test subjects for a mad scientists who wants to rule the world, but it’s really about three friends making fun of bad movies. The movie, Hobgoblins, is a crappy Gremlins knock off, with a bizarre, gross sense of humor, with fascinating attempts at a horror. My sister realized after a while that this isn’t the one that she watched, and she was sure that it was an actual movie, and this felt like an episode of television, and my immediate reaction was “Wait, there’s more?”

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Making fun of movies is serious business. (L-R, Crow (Trace Beaulieu), Joel Robinson (Joel Hodgson), and Tom Servo (Kevin Murphy) (Picture Source: Shout Factory, IO9.com)

I had found a new appreciation for bad movies. If something isn’t working, make fun of it! I started watching this every week. I’ve recorded several episodes on VHS, and studied the show more than I studied for tests (priorities, you know?). Then I began circulating the tapes, before I even saw that as a tagline to the show. I needed someone to be with me on this show. My friends and I started watching this show together, writing down our favorite quotes, and adding things we feel like they should have said (at 10 years old, we thought we could be funnier than the guys who did this for a living, but this is blatantly untrue.)

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Tv’s Frank (Frank Conniff) and Dr Forrester (Trace Beaulieu) wear Chinderwear. Underwear for your chin. Diabolical! (Picture Source: Shout Factory.)

This show became my new obsession. Time went on, and other friends fell out of love, and stopped watching. One day, the show ended. I couldn’t find reruns, the internet wasn’t as fast as it is now (28k modem, amirite?), and I only had so many tapes. I moved on, like everyone else.

Eventually, internet would get good enough to stream video’s. I found some episodes of this show, but not all. Even then, I hated watching movies and television on my computer screen. I never found a great way to watch the show, and even then, it was nothing more than passing nostalgia.

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Tom Servo (Kevin Murphy) show’s his true colors to Crow (Bill Corbett) and Mike (Mike Nelson). (Picture Source: Shout Factory, tvguide.com)

Then I found a four-episode collection 8 years ago, and spend fifty dollars without a passing thought.

During my second wind for this show, I came to realize something. Mystery Science Theater 3000 in very responsible for my sense of humor. It takes more pride in telling jokes that three people will find hilarious, more than the jokes that are for everyone. It’s referential humor that I got made me feel as though I was part of the joke. It’s the show that does something life tells you that you’re not allowed to do, talk during a movie, and makes an entire show around it, and to me, that bit of rule breaking is appealing to me (but seriously, don’t talk during a movie, unless its encouraged, or completely called for). This show influenced me so much, that if someone said the beginning of a line of a song, I would finish it in tune, sort of like the show did sometimes.

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Bobo (Kevin Murphy), Brain Guy (Bill Corbett) and Pearl Forester (Mary Jo Pehl) defy physics and breath in space. (Picture Source: Shout Factory, avclub.com)

To show my appreciation, I bought multiple volumes of the show, actual merchandise, and when the kickstarter for the return happened, I gave $100 American (which is $130 Canadian) right away. I wanted to see more of these snarky robots, and their captive friend! I wanted more of these Mad Scientists, and their crazy schemes! I wanted more bad movies! This show taught me, in a round about way, that every movie has value, especially the bad ones!

I love this show, and I’m going to start reviewing classic episodes on this site occasionally. I’m not going to get into the Mike VS Joel VS Jonah debate (the correct answer is Mike) because they’re all great. I’m not going to get into the best villain of the show (I like Felicia Day, and Mary Jo Pehl, but Trace Beaulieu’s Dr. Forrester is King), but they’re always the reason to watch the sketches between the movies. Not every episode is a winner, but when it’s good, it’s fantastic, and I hope you guys can learn to appreciate the show like I do.

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The new class! (L-R, Felicia Day, Hampton Yount, Jonah Ray, Tim Ryder, Baron Vaughn, Joel Hodgson, Patton Oswalt.) (Picture Source: Netflix, Twitter.)

But before I go, I’d like to go through a few of my favorite episode, with a quick synopsis, just so you have a place to start.

Hobgoblins if you want to see 80’s teens get terrorized by plush dolls.

Mitchel if you want to see Joe Don Baker try to be an Action Hero.

The Final Sacrifice if you want to see the most Canadian version of Star Wars you’ve ever seen.

Santa Claus if you’re feeling festive and want to see the perpetuation of ethnic stereotypes in the most bizarre way possible. Also, Santa fights Satan.

Werewolf if you want to see a group of actor try to sound American, and misses it completely. Also Joe Estevez is in the movie! You know, brother of Martin Sheen!

Soul Taker if you want to see what happens when someone with no self awareness writes a part for herself. Also Joe Estevez is in the movie! You know, uncle of Charlie Sheen!

And finally, Laserblast! Leonard Maltin gave it two and a half starts!

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I’d Probably watch this movie without the commentary. (Picture Source: Shout Factory, jiangaophoto.com )

I could name many more, and people might be surprised that I didn’t say “Manos: The Hands of Fate” (trust me, you’re not prepared for that one until you are), but these are some great episodes that are easy to get into before you get into the nitty gritty of the show. Also, most of the Netflix episodes are pretty great. I hope you enjoy!

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GIF Source: oldschoolsciencefiction.tumblr.com
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Author: Devin Melnyk

I'm still trying to figure out how the internet works.

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